The Assyrians begin their captivity of Israel (the northern kingdom), and the king of Judah, Ahaz (over the southern kingdom), wishes to receive protection as a loyal vassal territory under Assyria. Long gone are the days of David and Solomon, along with Israel’s great power and strength.
Though the Assyrian captivity is only described in brief detail in our passage, the tragedies of this time will shape Israelite identity in ways similar to Egyptian slavery and the subsequent Babylonian captivity. For example, the disdain that the northern and southern kingdoms already have towards one another will only increase because of Samaritan assimilation with their Assyrian captors. When we read the new Testament about Jesus and his followers having to navigate long-standing tensions with Samaritans, many of the root causes for the animosity can be traced to the times of Assyrian captivity.
Assyria will also be the first of a long line of foreign captors to humiliate and harm the Israelites. This will cause confusion for Israel relating to the temple, God’s promises to David, and how to live faithfully to God in the midst of more powerful and idolatrous foreigners. These events will also begin to shape and inform the belief that a messiah will return Israel to its past glories by defeating these foreign invaders. Without a grasp on these two chapters, much of what we will read in the prophets and even in the Gospels will make less sense than if we grasp what is at stake when the Assyrians take power.